Creationists and Understanding Evolution

That’s an interesting way to put it – understanding.

Would you say that you have an understanding of evolutionary biology, completely independent of accepting evolutionary theory?

I ask because I have yet to encounter a creationist that does. Much of creationist rhetoric is devoted to misrepresenting evolutionary biology.


Only very basic knowledge. So I’m not sure what counts as understanding. I still need to figure out nested hierarchy. I probably have a better understanding than a high school student at this point, maybe equivalent to a biology course that touched on the basics.

Thanks for being honest. I would describe that as virtually zero understanding. There’s really nothing to figure out. It’s not a difficult concept at all, just very dangerous for someone in your position.

I disagree.


I’m pretty new so I want to make sure I understand the vocabulary of the forum so that I don’t respond to something based on my own wrong assumptions.

What does “creationist” mean around these parts?

I don’t think there’s a forum consensus. Different people around here will use the word in non-identical ways. You’ll have to ask specifically the people who use it what they mean in that situation.


Well, there’s currently an insanely long verbose thread about people who are attempting to redefine it very narrowly, and there have been similar discussions before. It’s probably fair to say that there is no consensus because people who are sympathetic to such things as ID Creationism want the word “creationism” dropped from its name, while people who are concerned more with the origins and underpinnings of creationism tend to define it more broadly.


John, may I ask, what’s the definition of “creationist” in the context of the sentence above?

There is an endless acrimony on this forum over that definition in and of itself. I suggest that by qualifying up front the breadth of understanding you intend to convey, it is more likely you can keep the focus on the topic you are actually interested in.


Thanks. I don’t care to argue for any particular definition. I just want to make sure I’m reading what the author wants me to read, and triggering in the head of a reader something at least similar to the thing that I mean to say.

I think my assumed defintion is something like “someone who believes that the universe was created”.

I can’t speak for Mercer on the particulars of his usage, but I think it is fair to say that people rarely consider someone a creationist who thinks only that the gods were the “ultimate” cause of the origin of the universe, or of living things. But as soon as the gods are made into proximate causes of the origins of the universe, the earth, or living things, then many of us, myself included will regard such a viewpoint as creationist.

Narrower definitions than that, however, are on offer. One burning question, which has consumed a good deal of virtual ink here, is whether people who advocate creationism by feigning an interest in legitimate science, e.g., the ID Creationists, are to be treated as creationists because of their actual motives and beliefs, or as non-creationists because of their careful avoidance of certain specific types of claims.


Here is the problem you are dealing.


I think someone already suggested to ask the person you are corresponding to what their definition is.


That helps. Sounds like you’re saying that often “creationist” on this forum will refer to “YEC”.

I knew I needed help with the word, because I think of “creationist” as a word that describes someone’s theology, not their thoughts about science. Add the words “young earth” and that’s still theology, but it’s theology that directs one’s thougts about science, imo.

Just based on what you and others have said here, I think I’ll be able to sort it out by context.

This is for free, and possibly picking on you based on semantics, but I hope you “treat” the people humanely that you “treat like creationists”.

I’d say most agreeable is that “creationist” would at least include both YEC and OEC. It’s gets more dicey after that. A major impetus for some TEs to adopt EC (Evolutionary Creationism) is to reclaim (?) “creationism” to a more minimalist definition (along the lines which you began with…for Christians, someone who could affirm the creedal confession of the “Maker of heaven and earth”).

ID is the tricky one, as the graphic shared above attests. IDs tend to profess one thing, while critics of ID protest and think something else (thus the debates here, including recently).


I haven’t read all of his publications but I get the impression, from what little I have heard and read from him, that Todd Wood understands the major elements of evolutionary biology without “accepting” it as what actually happened in the history of life on earth.

Sadly, such misrepresentation is certainly not uncommon in that community. Agreed.

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I’d be stronger (based on my personal knowledge of Todd as friend and former colleague and his resume, including relevant PhD and his work on the genome project) that Todd Wood knows evolutionary biology very well, generally and intricately. The reason he (and Kurt Wise) are often mentioned is because they represent the few outliers among YECs who really do understand the science.


I actually thought I was saying the opposite: that it will often refer to any proximate supernatural involvement in the creation of living things, planets or universes. So that would include OEC, YEC, IDC and probably a whole bunch of other Cs I haven’t thought of.

I don’t think I said anything about treating people “like” creationists, but rather “as” creationists, by which I meant only the use of the word “creationist” to describe them. I endeavor to treat creationists fairly, and they dislike my doing so greatly, but I do not think that I am inhumane in my dealings.


Alrighty. My confusion was that it sounded like whether IDC was C was undecided, and that I honestly don’t know what OECs think about E.

LOL at they “they dislike my doing so greatly.”

Yes, I LOL at that quite frequently. I’ve done a number of reviews of creationist books over at Amazon, and used to get into the most astonishing, and funny, arguments with creationists there (there used to be comment threads on the reviews, but they have now all been deleted!). One poor fellow wound up telling me that Craig Venter was an immaterial entity, then getting angry at me for pointing out that he had claimed Craig Venter was an immaterial entity, and then telling me again that Craig Venter was an immaterial entity, and then repeating that cycle about five times through. I kid you not.

So while a person like that might be quite cross at me, and feel that my fair treatment of creationists is unfair, it’s entirely possible that his grasp of fairness is on a level with his grasp of the material nature of Craig Venter.

I agree, which is why I qualified my claim carefully.

Do you know of any others?

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I know Kurt and Todd worked with others in an annual study group from US and UK (e.g., Paul Garner), but I don’t know them or their credentials enough to comment. I suppose one might look at Nathaniel Jeanson’s Harvard PhD, but I don’t know his specific discipline.